Marie Schaack is frank when she recalls caring for her husband, George, during the last weeks of his life.
“I could not have done it myself,” she says.
Marie and George turned to JourneyCare more than 30 years ago as George was facing the end of his life. Marie was so grateful for the hospice care he received that she joined the ranks of JourneyCare’s volunteers for the next three decades. In her role, she helped write letters of comfort to patient families, even recruiting new volunteers from her job at Motorola.
“JourneyCare was so good to George and were always there when I needed them,” Marie says.
Now, JourneyCare is here for Marie once again when she needs it most. At 108 years old, Marie is now a hospice patient. Her goal is to avoid nursing home care and remain in her own Barrington home, where she lives two doors down from her son, Bob, and his beloved dog, a boxer named Champ.
JourneyCare volunteer Jan Vogel connected with Marie the moment she joined JourneyCare as a Volunteer Supervisor and the two remain close friends today. When the two women met, they discovered they shared the same motivation. Jan’s father died in JourneyCare’s hospice program, so she jumped at the chance to work for the nonprofit organization when she saw a job ad in the newspaper.
But even though Jan was the Volunteer Supervisor on staff and Marie a volunteer on her team, Jan jokes about who was in charge.
“She was the boss!” Jan says with a laugh.
Today, Jan is retired and remains a JourneyCare volunteer herself. She and Bob work together with the JourneyCare hospice team to ensure Marie receives the very best care – body, mind and spirit – and achieves her goal of staying at home until the end.
“Her JourneyCare nurse is phenomenal,” says Jan. “She cares for Marie like she is caring for her own grandmother.”
Bob adds that hospice care has offered practical help to him as a caregiver, because he no longer worries about the challenge of transporting his mom to doctor appointments.
Volunteers have also helped care for Marie in special ways. JourneyCare volunteer, Debra Anderson created an original painting of Champ for Marie as a creative way to brighten her day from afar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She loves that dog and loves that painting,” says Jan. “She has it framed right near her bed!”
Bob says he would tell any family to choose hospice when caring for a loved one with serious illness.
“It’s not giving up or a defeat,” he explains. “Hospice made the best sense and is great for Mom, because she’s still at home, still getting good care and we are giving her the best quality of life possible.”